On warm, late-winter and early-spring days look along streams for an insect skimming across the water's surface. This week on Discover Nature we watch for the water strider.
Water-repellant hairs on the hind and middle legs allow these nimble insects to skate on water. Velvety hairs on their bodies keep them dry despite spending all their time on water.
The water strider has an elongated body, less than an inch long – dark-brown or blackish, with a silvery-white stripe along each side. Six long, thin legs, spread far apart, create a “dimple” on the water’s surface.
Though sometimes called “water spiders,” striders are actually insects. They eat other bugs that fall onto the water’s surface – detecting the ripples caused by their prey’s struggles – often feeding in groups.
Common in nearly any aquatic habitat in Missouri, birds feed on water striders, but fish seem to find them unsavory, and rarely eat them.
Learn more about water striders and other Missouri-native aquatic insects with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s online field guide.
Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.